We all have points in our lives when we need to make key decisions. When thinking about what to do, and even when praying about the right way forward, we may be tempted to be swayed by the opinions of others. Over the years, however, I have learned to listen intently for God’s direction.
God, infinite Mind, is communicating the understanding we need, now and forever. To hear God, we must keep the lines of communication open through prayer—through constant listening for the intelligent ideas of divine Mind. Prayer calls for letting go of preconceived thoughts and plans and being humbly willing to yield to divine Mind’s direction. Then, as the Bible says, “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
We each possess the ability to do this through the spiritual sense that Mary Baker Eddy’s key text on Christian Science says is “a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 209). We can pray to know that nothing can obstruct our spiritual sense—our ability to commune with God and hear God’s direction.
One significant grappling time for me came during college, when I was feeling uncomfortable with the decision I had made to pursue a major in physics or math. My father was an electrical engineer, and in high school I had loved working with him on my math and physics assignments, so it had seemed natural to follow in his technically oriented footsteps.
God, infinite Mind, is communicating the understanding we need, now and forever.
However, when I entered college, I felt impelled to think more deeply about the meaning of, and my place in, life. I took up a serious study of Christian Science and learned more about God and my relation to Him as His complete spiritual reflection (see my Sentinel article “A spiritual awakening in the dorm,” August 3, 1998). I considered the study of Christian Science to be as important to me as any academic class I was taking, so I read Science and Health from cover to cover, praying to understand how to apply what I was learning to my college experience. Through my study and prayer, I discovered I had talents and interests that pointed me in the direction of becoming a Christian Science practitioner—which would mean devoting myself full time to the public practice of healing through prayer.
As I thought about how to develop the loving, compassionate qualities requisite for a practitioner, the idea came to me that I should pursue a theater major. I saw clearly how that would not only help me better understand human behavior, but would also support me in overcoming my intense shyness. Feeling divinely guided to change my major, I pursued this new course of study, but worried about my father’s reaction. I was convinced he would be deeply disappointed that I was no longer following his path.
Continuing my earnest study of Christian Science, I came to realize that as the child of my loving Father-Mother God, I needed to put obedience to my divine Parent first. I recognized that my father was also the child of God. And all turned out well. My dad agreed that I needed to find my own path in life. In the years that followed, the theater major and my consecrated study of Christian Science did indeed help me outgrow my shyness—and my dad and I continued to maintain a loving and close relationship.
I have had many experiences in which I felt impelled to follow God’s guidance instead of yielding to pressure exerted by others. I’ve learned to not judge myself by others’ opinions or by the world’s standards of wealth, power, and prestige. The true measure of success is in how well we listen to and follow God’s guidance. And as I’ve come to place a higher value on my heavenly Father’s “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), I’ve been abundantly blessed.
Our God-inspired path is perfectly suited to our true spiritual nature, though it may or may not be congruent with others’ preconceived templates for our lives. At times people close to us may be disappointed that we have not pursued a path they think is best or natural for us. But making decisions in response to personal pressure could mean heading down the wrong road, which eventually leads to dissatisfaction and the need to retrace our steps. For real fulfillment, we must “be true and list the voice within, / Be true unto thy high ideal,” as a hymn by Kate L. Colby says (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 20).
The true measure of success is in how well we listen to and follow God’s guidance.
Our deep love for our Father-Mother God inspires a willingness to listen to God and follow His guidance, even after we have respectfully listened to and considered well-meaning advice from family, friends, or perhaps teachers. Mrs. Eddy writes in her book Retrospection and Introspection, “A general rule is, that my students should not allow their movements to be controlled by other students, even if they are teachers and practitioners of the same blessed faith” (p. 82). The most useful insights people have offered me are those that have helped me understand how to do something, rather than what to do.
When we act from motives that fulfill God’s purpose and benefit our fellow man, God gives us the courage to risk the disapproval of others. And as we gain confidence in our ability to hear His direction, it becomes easier to handle criticism and pressure, regardless of how aggressively they are presented.
Understanding that everyone has a special, divinely ordained place in God’s kingdom frees us from comparing ourselves to others or competing with them. As we pray to know that each individual is in his or her right place, envy and jealousy evaporate. If we find ourselves wanting to emulate the accomplishments of another, we can pray, “God, what do You want me to do? Is this part of my mission?” We can be confident that God will reveal what we need to know in order to demonstrate our own unique talents. If they are different from what we had thought, we can let go of that and trust that God will guide us into a more fitting plan for us.
I’ve loved thinking about an encouraging statement in Retrospection and Introspection: “Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity” (p. 70). My experience has shown me that filling that niche is not just a duty, but also a privilege and a joy. We aren’t isolated from others, working alone; we live in God’s universal family, supporting and complementing each other.
God, the creator of all, has given each of us a mission and purpose that can’t be fulfilled by anyone else. Spiritual man—everyone’s real selfhood—is made in the image and likeness of God, Spirit, and expresses all of God’s qualities in a unique collection of talents. Our job is to commune with God so we can discern His direction for our lives as it unfolds moment by moment. As we each listen for and follow God’s leading, we will find more peace and progress. God wants only good for each of us and is guiding our every step. We just need to open our hearts to God’s guidance, and discover and stick to our own amazing, divinely ordained purpose.
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